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Drought: Is Europe prepared to live with (much) less water?

Across the continent, lack of rain, high temperatures, and heat waves are turning swathes of Europe into near-desert terrain. The European Drought Observatory indicates that 47% of the territory of the European Union is under “warning” and 17% under “alert”, and some experts say that this is the worst drought in the last 500 years in Europe.

Dominic Royé, the climate specialist and professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela, points out that “what we see this summer is a composite event, when two or more climate risks occur simultaneously or sequentially, in this case, hydrological drought and heat waves”, cites the ‘ABC’.

The lack of rain has left many European water reservoirs below the levels considered ideal, in some cases even leading to minimums. For example, regions in the southeast of England have not received rain for around 150 days, according to official sources.

“Late spring and early summer of 2022 were characterized by abnormal anticyclonic conditions in most of western and central Europe,” explains the European Drought Observatory.

In turn, the European climate change observation service, Copernicus, adds that “last July was drier than average in most of western Europe”, adding that the phenomenon was felt “from the Iberian Peninsula to the Black Sea, including the United Kingdom and Ireland”.

European Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius has already warned that “freshwater resources are scarce and under increasing pressure”. In this context, the official argues that “we have to stop wasting water and use this resource more efficiently, to adapt to climate change and to guarantee the security and sustainability of our agricultural supply”.

With a scenario of prolonged drought as a backdrop, and with some observers saying that this will be the “new normal”, several European countries are already implementing plans to reduce water consumption.

In Spain, the Guadalquivir and Guadiana reservoirs are at 23% and 25%, respectively, while the national average is 39%.

The director of the Botín Foundation’s Water Observatory, Alberto Garrido, emphasizes that “we have a drought management system and good infrastructure”, countering that “Germany and France do not have this regulation and that the drought situation affects them more”. However, specialist Royé disagrees and underlines that “neither Spain nor Europe are prepared to face a great drought”.

In France, on August 12, 93 of the 101 departments into which the country is divided are under measures to restrict the use of water, with three being on alert, 16 on high alert, and 74 in crisis condition, according to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition.

“The Mediterranean coast and the archipelagos are better prepared”, points out Royé, explaining that “certainly because they suffered in past decades with sequential droughts and have implemented measures to guarantee supply, at least in urban areas”.

However, in the interior of the Iberian Peninsula and in the regions of the Cantabrian Sea, the drought situation “is especially delicate”.

According to the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), of the United Nations, what should only see in 2050 is happening almost three decades ahead of the predictions.

Scientists explain that global warming will make extreme weather events more frequent, more intense and longer lasting, such as heat waves and periods of severe drought, and that the coming years are unlikely to bring any improvement.

Source: With Agencies

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